By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

FRUITPORT – It comes as little surprise that the Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders are heading to the playoffs again.

An impressive 42-7 victory over the host Fruitport Trojans has earned first-year head coach Steve Czerwon an automatic playoff berth after losing the first two games of the season. That means the Crusaders have reeled off six straight victories.

First-year Muskegon Catholic Central head coach Steve Czerwon talks to his team following the Crusaders' 42-7 victory over Fruitport. Photo/Tim Riley

First-year Muskegon Catholic Central head coach Steve Czerwon talks to his team following the Crusaders’ 42-7 victory over Fruitport, declaring the squad’s first goal complete. ” We are in the playoffs.” Photo/Tim Riley

“That was a goal at the start of the year,” Czerwon said. “To play in Week 10 and now for sure we are playing in Week 10.

“We knew we played two tough teams to start with and we’ve got things rolling and we’re playing as a team and that’s what we’re looking for,” Czerwon said.

That goal was reached thanks to a stifling defense and an explosive offense. And, even the special teams got involved with a blocked punt that was returned for a touchdown.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Crusaders racked up 21 second-quarter points and took a 21-7 lead into the half.

Much of the Crusaders’ first scoring drive was done in the first quarter, but it was less than 1 minute into the second quarter when the drive culminated on a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Lewandoski.

The lead grew to 14-0 near the midpoint of the second quarter on a special teams gem by MCC. Nick Holt blocked the punt and Lewandoski scooped up the ball and ran 38 yards for a touchdown.

Before the half would end, the host Trojans would get on the board when quarterback Luc Kostamo hooked up with speedy Mitchell Reyes, who made a fingertip catch in the end zone. That 23-yard touchdown made it 14-7.

The Crusader defense shutdown the usually explosive Fruitport offense. Photo/Tim Riley

The Crusader defense shutdown the usually explosive Fruitport offense. Photo/Tim Riley

However, the Crusaders were not content just running out the clock. A Nick Holt to Blake Sanford pass play netted 11 yards. A pass to Tommy Scott covered 56 yards and the junior back darted into the end zone. Holt was rocked on the play after releasing the ball and Fruitport was tagged with a rough the passer (blow to the head penalty).

In any event, MCC took that 21-7 lead into halftime.

Lewandoski ran 37 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. That was the only score of the third quarter.

However, on the first play of the final quarter, Scott snared a tipped pass and ran 54 yards for a touchdown on the interception of Kostamo.

“As a defensive coach, I’m preaching that kind of stuff,” Fruitport coach Greg Vargas said. “You talk about those are the opportunities that you seize and they really make a huge difference in the game.”

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Junior Tommy Scott sprints down the sideline after hauling a pass from Crusader QB Nick Holt. Photo/Tim Riley

On the ensuing kickoff, the Trojans fumbled and Dominic Midkiff recovered. Five plays later, Lewandoski was in the end zone again, this time from 4 yards out. Griffin Seymour added his sixth extra point and the final 8:46 was played with a running clock.

Lewandoski finished with 16 carries for 128 yards and Scott had 11 carries for 68 yards. Holt completed 2-of-5 passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. Michael Caughey and Lewandoski each had eight tackles on defense.

“We knew, quite frankly, we were a little faster than them,” Czerwon said. “And we wanted to use that to our advantage. You know, you get two defensive touchdowns and that just makes everything just a little bit easier for you.”

For Fruitport, hard running Derek White finished with 21 carries for 81 yards. Reyes had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, Colin Butler, Nathan Kriger and Mitchell Reyes each had 10 tackles. Collin Cribley had an interception.

“Muskegon Catholic is always well coached,” Vargas said. “We know that coming in. They did a great job at the line of scrimmage. Our kids, I’m proud of them. They hung in there.”

Crusader fans celebrate the team's sixth victory. Photo/Tim Riley

Crusader fans celebrate the team’s sixth victory. Photo/Tim Riley

Muskegon Catholic hosts Traverse City St. Francis in its regular-season finale. Fruitport travels to undefeated DeWitt needing a victory to gain an automatic playoff berth.

“DeWitt is a state powerhouse and that’s one of the reasons we put them on our schedule,” Vargas said.